My First Troll!

Wow, this is what it feels like to experience hate mail! I gotta say, I’m kind of flattered. It was in reference to my article “Dune and Its Descendents”, one of many in which I praised the late Frank Herbert for his amazing work over the years and bashed the work that has followed in his wake. Like many fans of the original books, my love for them is matched only by my disappointment with how the series ended.

Plenty of times I have encountered fans of the new books, and we’ve been able to have some spirited debate. Hell, I even conversed with Kevin J Anderson himself and managed to keep a civil tongue, partly out of sympathy because this guy gets TONS of hate mail! But this person, who goes by the name of Carlos, he really took the cake. Here’s what he said:

“Of course your the big idiot ever, since the creation of the universe. And you don’t understand the work of frank Herbert, or the deep: spiritual, scientific, artistic and philosophic work of this avatar, also the reality of science fiction (reality). Frank Herbert is a genius, like Tolkien, and if you don´t understand it, its because you don´t have brains or the intelligence needed to see it. Au dare you to say something so idiot from others work, in what brainless basis of yours? It makes no sense or logic, i only see envy, some ow, and a very small brain, even smaller than a desert rat.


How nice, he even signed his name. It’s like F*@@$% you, you unbelievable bastard! Sincerely, Troller. Well,  I would be inclined to reply to this… um … comment here, except for two things. One, the man’s name doesn’t provide a link that goes anywhere. And two, I don’t have the slightest freaking idea what the hell he’s on about.

Correct if I’m wrong but it sounds like he thinks I’m bashing Frank Herbert, not the work of Kevin J Anderson and Brian Herbert. And what the hell is this “avatar”, does he even know what that means? That would imply a stand in, which makes me think he IS defending these two authors. But their names never come up, and rarely do their works ever inspire such heartfelt defense of the words “genius” or “deep”. Mainly people just say that they’re alright and entertaining and not hurting anyone.

Ah well, I’m clearly over thinking this. Mainly, I’m just intrigued because this is the first hate mail I’ve ever received here, which makes me think I’m coming up in the world! And second, the vociferous and confused nature of it kind of amuses me. It’s good to believe that attacks against you are the result of misunderstandings and confused emotion, and not the result of disapproval you can actually understand and get behind.

Ah well, kudos Carlos. You will always be my first hater! I just wish I knew what the hell you were talking about.

KJA and my conversation… continued

KJA and my conversation… continued

Okay, yesterday, the conversation I mentioned in the previous post, between myself and KJA (and several of his fans) began. And here’s where it ended just now. All in all, the folks there aren’t bad, their opinions notwithstanding, so I intend to stick around on it and see if I convert anyone! In any case, I more or less got the answers I was looking for. I say more or less because I got some admissions, but they seemed more or less couched in denials and ambiguities. Here’s what I mean…

Kevin’s final response, in reference to my saying that the Butlerian Jihad angle didn’t fit with Dune 7’s ending:

“Matt, Erasmus and Omnius were *our* creations–we have always been clear on that. But before his death Frank Herbert was planning on writing the story of the Butlerian Jihad with Brian, which probably influenced his thinking on tying together the grand finale of Dune 7 with earlier events in the Jihad. Again, you have every right to think it sounds contrived if it doesn’t appeal to you…I thought Isaac Asimov’s later work was a little contrived when he began tying everything together, and I never believed George Lucas meant for Luke and Leia to be brother and sister…But the books are written and published — 18 of them now over the course of more than 60 years, and you need to look at the totality of the story. I wish Frank Herbert had lived long enough to write Dune 7 himself.”

I replied with the following:

“All right then. Thank you Kevin for your honesty and forthcoming-ness (if that’s a word). Rest assured, I do look at the stories as a totality, and they remain the very thing that inspired me to write. I remember reading how Frank inspired you when you were younger and I feel that we have that very thing in common. Hell, he’s the guy who literally wrote the book that made people take sci-fi seriously! And that’s what got me off my ass and made me feel that ideas I had were worthy of putting down. I only hope the reading public feels the same way some day and I have some measure of what you’ve accomplished over the years.”

Hmm, that’s some pretty good bullshit, huh? Well, its largely true, I DO hope to have the same kind of following for my own writing someday. If nothing else, KJA is financially successful and does have fans. I want that, dammit! And of course, KJA does claim Frank as a major inspiration. Personal opinions aside, I thought I’d acknowledge that debt.

He then signed off with this statement:

“Matt, thanks for the civil tone, and if you see some anger in the other posts here, bear in mind that many of the others on Jacurutu have been quite vicious to *anyone* who dares to say they enjoy the new books.”

All I could think to say in reply was:

“Seems to be a controversial topic. Frank would be… intrigued I guess!”

Frankly, that seemed kinder than saying that his work has had a polarizing effect on people. Kind of sounds blamey, even if it is true. And from his point of view, I’m sure its true. There’s plenty of viciousness coming from his side of the aisle too, and I got a fare dose just coming on this forum! But I got a no trolling policy in place and I intend to stand by it.

Overall, what stood out for me in all this was the admissions that were made. Erasmus and Omnius were their inventions, Frank was planning on writing about it, and they established connections throughout their works. This partially explained what I was looking for, but he avoided saying the one thing that would have cinched it for me. He never confirmed nor denied that Frank had left notes that firmly connected the Butlerian Jihad to Dune 7, aka. that he intended to end it with killer robots. But he did seem to be implying that the ending he wrote was the one that Frank intended. So once again, the connection remains tenuous, you either believe it or you don’t.

However, his peeps had their contributions to make as well. The following comes from two such people who sought to show how my proof could be interpreted to support Brian and KJA’s writing who once again said the things that fans of the new books are known to say:

Here’s the first, and arguably, most eloquent:

“Matt, as I’m still a “novice” by not having read EVERYTHING so far published in Dune (although I DO own everything except the biography of Frank that Brian did), I recognize that I’m not really one most would look to for comments on things unread. That being said, I’m just looking at the quotes you mention from Chapterhouse and it seems to me that Frank could easily have been setting up a changeroo on the readers. Examples of previous changeroos are when he changed Paul from Dune to Dune Messiah. Also, he apparently does have this way of doing things “suddenly” as I’ve heard how you go from one page to another to find a planet (Dune itself if I recall correctly not having read that book) has exploded or was destroyed somehow), so him doing something drastically different about characters, and suddenly, from one novel to the next isn’t so out of touch with how he did things. So allow me to break it down based on my understanding of things regarding the end of Chapterhouse and the beginning of Hunters, not having read either one. You quote both: “That thought aroused Idaho’s suspicions because now he recognized the familiarity. They looked somewhat like Face Dancers, even to the pug noses … And if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale’s Face Dancers. Those two people behind the shimmering net belonged to no one but themselves.”


“[Tleilaxu Masters] have such a hard time accepting that Face Dancers can be independent of them.” “I don’t see why. It’s a natural consequence. They gave us the power to absorb the memories and experiences of other people. Gather enough of those and…” “It’s personas we take, Marty.” “Whatever. The Masters should’ve known we would gather enough of them one day to make our own decisions about our own future.”

As I haven’t read the book, I’ll rely on the verification of others that these are both accurate quotes from Chapterhouse.

Now I will show you how it’s quite possible Frank had intended for them not to be Face Dancers the whole time (regardless of whether he would have ever imagined Omnius and Erasmus up), and I will do it based solely on the quotes you have given.

“Idaho’s suspicions” indicates suspicions from Idaho, not certainty. He is not at all certain that they are Face Dancers although “he recognized the familiarity”.

“if they were Face Dancers” continues to show the uncertainty of this. Idaho is clearly not certain that they are Face Dancers, but “if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale’s Face Dancers.”

“Those two people….belonged to no one but themselves” indicates that there wasn’t any allegiance for these two, plus could easily be a foreshadowing to them not even being Face Dancers of any kind.

The second full quote sounds almost like a couple of “superior” people discussing how other “lesser” races look at each other.

“They gave us the power” could indicate the power humans gave machines to begin with and Tleilaxu being humans then that sentence following the comment about Tleilaxu could fit and be a sneaky way that Frank worded things.

“It’s personas we take” could indicate more than what I presume is the usual motif of a Face Dancer. Frank could be indicating that for these two, the “personas” they took were the personas of Face Dancers. Again, not exactly something that is immediately evident from how Frank was telling the story I’ll wager having not read that story yet, but he’s proven his sneakiness in other ways, so this could have all just been his way of foreshadowing things.

As far as Frank not coming up with computers taking over and men having to fight computers, I’ll refer to something Brian Conway told me on the phone one time, and I think Greg Arnold may have mentioned the very novel earlier, and that reference is Frank Herbert has shown in his other writings that machines can be a threat, and it’s always possible that some of his other novels about this could have been “tied together” later as being set before the events of Dune. Imagine if he actually had lived long enough to write a prequel about The Butlerian Jihad, he just may have tied the two series together with that prequel. Again, Brian Conway would be better at explaining that than I am and I hope he has time to join the conversation and add his theory about this for even greater clarification.

As far as you quoting passages Frank wrote about The Butlerian Jihad to disprove the trilogy which Brian and Kevin wrote, I’m not sure your reasoning stands.

You talk about a time period of 93 years which Frank called a “crusade” as nothing more than a rebellion. As if all rebellions never have life or death consequences. And this is one that went on for quite some time, so it’s only natural that things during that time would even escalate at various points along the way.

Even if Frank never meant for “Erasmus” and “Omnius” as specific characters from the beginning of Dune (or even at the end of his own life), when I read Dune for the first time a couple of years back (before then going back and reading The Butlerian Jihad) I got the distinct impression from Frank’s comments about that time that it was more than just humans turning off and then destroying a bunch of robotic butlers that had gone awry. The fact that he used a very war-like word such as “Jihad”, which historically has had religious and war associated with it, told me that there was definitely a story to be told, and I was glad that I had a novel handy to read after I read Dune in order to see how it all unfolded. Of course, that turned out to be a three novel ordeal, but I enjoyed every page of it. ; )

Personally, I’m enjoying both Frank’s original novels as well as what Brian and Kevin have done. I’m looking forward to when I’ve read everything to reading it all over again and breaking things down to have even further understanding as I’ve seen a lot of other fans do. It should be a lot of fun to do that. I know I’m looking forward to the new novel in January, and maybe that will help “connect” things a little better too, between the Butlerian Jihad trilogy and the House trilogy.”

And another:

“Ahhh – I see that House of William aka Matt Williams from Jacurutu is here – Welcome! Your 1st quote ” the crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots ” does lend it’s self well to the legends series, as do others from the original books. You have to consider that in KJA and BH’s books the Machines have already wrested power away from the Humans that sought to use them as tools to dominate the rest of Humanity, through their own carelessness.

Keep in mind that on other works by FH he used Artificial Consciousness as a creation of humanity that assumes control of humanity (Ship from the Destination:Void series). There is no telling what FH may have done had he lived long enough to finish it himself.”

Sound familiar? Well, they did to me. Every one smacks of the same “let’s stretch the evidence to fit the theory” kind of thing. What surprises me is that Kevin wasn’t making these claims. This could be out of a desire not to explain himself, or because he’s constrained by what he can and cannot admit. If you’re claiming to be working by Frank’s own notes, but also taking great liberties with the material, you gotta keep tight lipped about it!

And I got to admit, not sure how I feel about talking to these people the way I did. Not sure if it was cowardly, brave, disingenuous or honest. All I can say is I wanted to strike a civil tone while still telling what I thought. Hard to do that when you think someone’s work sucks! Either way, I found his overall answers to be only partially revealing, and it kind of confirmed what I suspected. I’m unplacated, but then again, I never expected this to be revelatory. Oh well, fun while it lasted!

Kevin J Anderson and I have a chat… Seriously!

Kevin J Anderson and I have a chat… Seriously!

It’s a rare treat when you get to confront a person you’ve badmouthed for some time, isn’t it? Just think of James Reston Jr., the American journalist and author who was part of David Frost’s interview team. After years of slamming Nixon with his poison pen, and welcoming the opportunity to do a scathing interview, he got a chance to meet the man face to face. And wouldn’t you know it, he shook the man’s hand and called him “Mr. President”! Yes, somehow it’s hard to be mean to a man in person.

Well, as turns out I had the same opportunity opportunity recently; to speak to a man I’ve been criticizing for quite some time. I am referring, of course, to Kevin J Anderson. After reviewing the Brian Herbert/KJA Dune spinoffs on this site (quite poorly, I might add), I began a thread over at Goodreads dedicated to the Dune finale and what people thought of it. Opinions were mixed, the debate was somewhat heated. But then, one of the contributors, a fan of the new books, advised that I go on over to the Dune Saga site on Facebook to make my opinions known. Naturally, I was a little worried when I noticed KJA himself was the man in charge of this site, and I a little peaved when I noticed that my comments at Goodreads had already garnered some rather harsh criticisms from KJA fans.

Here’s a sample of what some of them said:

“It’s the usual crew that likes to bad mouth Brian and Kevin. I had a suspicion that the guy that started it was with them. One of his posts after they started showing up confirmed that.”

“I don’t even bother adding to these posts and go out of my way to ignore them on sites. These people don’t change and are limited in their ability to separate one writer from another. I wish they would stop reading Dune books or at the very least suffer from a head injury that would make them forget that Dune even existed. That way people that actually enjoy the continued story would not have to stumble upon their adolescent, mindless blabbering. THANK YOU KEVIN AND BRIAN FOR CONTINUING THE STORY FOR US!! I look forward to each new exciting installment of the Dune Saga. I would have been tragic if this story had stopped with Frank.”

“The Talifans return!”

Well, needless to say, I was taken aback and replied in kind. I mean really, Talifans! What nerve!:

“As the person who started that forum, I would like to ask, have you really read the arguments of how these books failed? Because I’ve noticed glaring inconsistencies between the old work and the new, ones that go far beyond “hating” and other things we are accused of. What’s more, I find it ironic for people to say that these are the “same old” complaints. Whenever I hear people defending the new books, its always the same. The “styles” are different, its his son, its bound to be different, but they had notes, etc.

And given the declining sales figures, I’d say its the McDune franchise thats likely to fade away soon.”

Guess who replied? The man himself! Here’s what he said:

“Sorry you don’t like the new books, Matt. The “glaring inconsistencies” the Talifan complain about have all been addressed in the novels, but they don’t–or don’t want to–read very carefully. The fact that they have not attacked the “glaring inconsistencies” in the original Frank Herbert books with the same vehemence seems a bit of a double standard.”

And of course, one of his fans jumped in with a somewhat harsher response:

“Amen Kevin. LOL…They had NOTES….HA…..I cant remember the last time I picked up a published notes at the book store. The notes still need to be fleshed out into stories regardless of what “notes” they may have had. Again since Frank did not write these stories, only provided a guideline, they will be different….you know…because they were not written by Frank…….. But thanks for posting more of the “same ol complaint” That you Trolls always state, notes , timeline, blah blah blah. We who have stuck by the Dune saga and have paid close attention to the story know exactly how each event falls into place. I do strongly encourage you to stop reading Dune books. But that is unlikely to happen because most of you Trolls just like something to constantly complain about. As far as the “McDune” franchise falling away, that is highly unlikely to happen thanks to a strong a loyal fan base. Trolls like you have been spewing that BS for YEARS and look 3 more books are on their way. Yeah the all those Dune New york Times best sellers that Brian and Kevin wrote failed horribly…. Again….I do strongly encourage you to stop reading Dune books, it seams your time would be better spent farming a vill or something.”

Well… needless to say, I felt I was being highly misrepresented. So I took it upon myself to explain what I meant by “inconsistencies” and to set the record straight on being a “troll”.

“First off, let me say thank you Mr. Anderson for responding yourself. I feel honored and in a unique position that I can speak to you directly. Let me first assure you that I didn’t dislike all your books. In fact, I thought that the Preludes series was alright, and I enjoyed Hunters, up until the ending that is. And that is what I mean by glaring inconsistencies. Let me illustrate:

First off, the fact the entire saga ended with the old man and woman being the evil robots from the Jihad. I couldn’t see how this could possibly be the result of Frank’s own notes. I mean really, the whole thing ends with characters from your own prequels? For one, they were clearly Face Dancers, as established by Frank in Chapterhouse. Here’s some evidence to that effect:

First, where Duncan recognizes them in one of his visions:

“That thought aroused Idaho’s suspicions because now he recognized the familiarity. They looked somewhat like Face Dancers, even to the pug noses … And if they were Face Dancers, they were not Scytale’s Face Dancers. Those two people behind the shimmering net belonged to no one but themselves.”

And at the end, where Daniel and Marty describe themselves:

“[Tleilaxu Masters] have such a hard time accepting that Face Dancers can be independent of them.” “I don’t see why. It’s a natural consequence. They gave us the power to absorb the memories and experiences of other people. Gather enough of those and…” “It’s personas we take, Marty.” “Whatever. The Masters should’ve known we would gather enough of them one day to make our own decisions about our own future.”

Clearly, they were Face Dancers. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Here’s William F. Touponce’s take on the ending, taken from his 1988 book entitled Frank Herbert:

“Herbert gives us a segment narrated from their point of view only at the very end of the novel. They are offshoots of the Tleilaxu Face Dancers sent out in the Scattering and have become almost godlike because of their capacity to assume the persona of whoever they kill — and they have been doing this for centuries, capturing Mentats and Tleilaxu Masters and whatever else they could assimilate, until now they play with whole planets and civilizations. They are weirdly benign when they first appear in the visions of Duncan Idaho as a calm elderly couple working in a flower garden, trying to capture him in their net…”

And finally, in an August 2007 review of Sandworms of Dune, John C. Snider of argued that it “doesn’t fit” or “add up” that Frank Herbert’s Daniel and Marty are the “malevolent” thinking machines Brian Herbert and Anderson created in their Legends of Dune prequel novels.

That was the glaring inconsistency I mentioned. Not plot holes or things not adding up in your own books. So for those who’ve already posted back and slammed by comment, I’d advice you understand what a person is saying first before you respond in kind.”

Now that I look at it, I notice I say “firstly” a lot. Not good. It looks unprofessional when you repeat yourself. And it looks unprofessional when you – okay, bad joke! Moving on! I was also sure to smack Greg back with a little “taking the high road” approach:

“And to Greg, you’re obvious disdain for us “trolls” notwithstanding, we’re fans like you and we’ve got opinions and points to make. You don’t like it fine, but I’m going to make it, and in the process show a lot more class than you’ve demonstrated thus far.”

All of this is a reiteration of what I said on Goodreads and in my review of Hunters of Dune. I of course left out the criticism of the Butlerian Jihad premise, seeing as how I was already not being brief. This, in turn, garnered some rather civilized comments from the man himself.

“And your own comments notwithstanding, you have to admit that the behavior of many of the “trolls” is vitriolic and insulting. I am not in the business of telling people which books they can or can’t read. If you don’t like the new Dune novels, I hope you’ll try my Seven Suns or some of my other books…or just read something else entirely. Don’t read all twelve of the new Dune books and keep railing about how much you hate them. For months now, the Talifan have been trashing SISTERHOOD OF DUNE, a book that none of them has read.”

Hmm, I notice he used the term “Talifan” too. Makes you wonder if he had a hand in creating it, or is just repeating what his own die-hards say. Either way, getting reamed by anyone isn’t easy so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here. Our conversation is ongoing at this point, with other salient issues being raised. In fact, one commenter, a highly civilized person who is a fan of the new books but has also been very polite to me, had a point to offer.

Here it is in its entirety:

“And since Kevin J. Anderson is here for the discussion, perhaps he can confirm or deny my theory I posted on the Goodreads site.

The theory broke down:

Item: Frank left next to nothing in notes for The Butlerian Jihad time which that trilogy was set in.

Item: Frank left a detailed outline for Dune 7 which was turned into two books upon fleshing it out.

Speculation: Brian and Kevin figured out from Frank’s notes on Dune 7 that certain characters were from the era of the Butlerian Jihad which they planned on writing a trilogy about.

Item: The Butlerian Jihad trilogy was published before the two Dune 7 novels were published.

Accusation: Brian and Kevin totally invented everything for The Butlerian Jihad, so therefore: They clearly inserted their own characters into the Dune 7 books.

My theory: It’s the opposite. They took what they could from the Dune 7 books in order to do better foreshadowing when they wrote The Butlerian Jihad trilogy. Therefore, not all characters in that trilogy were “made up” by Brian and Kevin even if they had to create the vast majority of the story involved to support the characters they had found in the notes of Dune 7.”

For non-fans of the Brian and KJA remakes, this is not a new theory. We’ve heard this one before, many times in fact! “The Butlerian Jihad was based on Franks notes, so it wasn’t unnatural for the series to end with characters form it.” This prompted me to reply to it by stating that this theory doesn’t add up. That’s when I posted my argument of how the Butlerian Jihad happened in the Legends series in a way that Frank couldn’t have intended, and how Brian and KJA said Frank left few notes on it so they made most of it up themselves, etc etc.

However, Kevin had this to say in response:

“David, your theory is very insightful. We had the Dune 7 outline from the time we started writing House Atreides and *always* had the final destination in mind; there are details in HOUSE CORRINO and throughout the Legends of Dune trilogy that we planted specifically to take the story and characters where we knew it was supposed to go in HUNTERS & SANDWORMS.”

His theory is insightful… I notice he’s not saying he’s right or wrong. If David had hit it on the head, I would think KJA would be the first to say so. He’s also saying how they “planted” things, but based on what – Frank’s notes, or their own inventions? In short, were they planting stuff for the sake of establishing ties between their own work and the ending ahead of time or was it something Frank left behind? You be the judge!

He also said the following to me about my proof:

“Again, thanks for giving the novels a chance, whether or not you liked all of them. Regarding your issues with Face Dancers and the remnants of the Butlerian Jihad, that was tied together in the books and detailed in Erasmus’s experiments to create the Face Dancers. It’s not my call whether or not you found the explanation or the resolution satisfying, but it’s not inconsistent with the series as a whole.”

Ties together huh?

Interesting, but again, can’t see how that’s what Frank had in mind. And I said as such. Saying Erasmus was experimenting with Face Dancers establishes a connection between Frank’s work and their ending, but does it not seem forced? Again, how could Frank have been planning on introducing robot characters in a final novel that made no appearance beforehand, were ever mentioned or even hinted at? Well, I said as much, and feel a little shmuckish at this point. I tell ya, its hard to say to someone’s face exactly what you think of their work. But as they say, “Nut up or shut up!” And remember, honesty and civility are not mutually exclusive.

I will no doubt have more to post on this as it unfolds. Needless to say, I’m just happy I get a chance to address this man directly, pose all my question directly to him. I mean, how often does someone get to do that? I want to see how he responds to these challenges, as I’m sure do many others!